Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Hurricane

A very amusing post from our friends at Vintage Wings of Canada for Christmas.

Thanks folks!  A neat* follow up to an excellent recent post on a favourite theme of mine, on the history of the roundel - plus a quiz at the end, here.

*But it's not true.  So please don't think it is...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Nick's Poetic Old Warden Close

Two Hawker biplanes on the line.  Hawker Demon, closest, Hawker Hind behind.  [Nick Blacow - Man on the Fence]

From my good friend Nick Blacow comes these amusing Hakus and some rather nice images.  Pop over here for a look.

Nick's Blog.


One of the most interesting 'might have beens' in aviation history is the Bugatti 100.  It is a real aircraft, but the original was never completed and never flew when designed in the late 1930s.  The remains were eventually acquired by the EAA and the restored aircraft is on show at the EAA Museum, Wisconsin, USA.

However there is a project to build a flying replica, to see what it could do...  They have a Facebook page here, their original project page here.  They also put up the above image, by Isabelle de Monge recently, and it was brought to my attention by the peerless XPLANES photo stream.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Aircrew: RAAF Vietnam Canberra Navigator

 As is often the case, I am offered or find more material than I can use in an Aircrew feature for Aeroplane magazine.

 RAAF Museum archive.

Thanks to Group Captain John ‘Bushy’ Bushell, RAAF (Ret), we are able to present his account of a typical RAAF Canberra bombing mission in the Vietnam War era.  The following words are John's, and the illustrations via the RAAF Museum Archive.  The Aircrew feature which this account supports is in the November 2012 issue of Aeroplane magazine.

As the first jet bomber from Britain, and being named after Australia’s capital, all would be familiar with the striking lines of Australia’s front line strike aircraft for the 1950s and 60s.  Beautiful in flight and frequently a highlight of air shows in the era.  But what was it like to operate?

The Crew & Tools
RAAF Canberras were operated by a two man crew:  a pilot who flew it all the way - since there was no autopilot; and a navigator who did just about everything else.  The nav had a Martin Baker Mk 1 ejection seat towards the port side behind the pilot’s seat.  To his right was a radio rack that housed the HF radio, the Green Satin Doppler controller and the ground position indicator Mk IV.  Ahead of his folding nav table was an instrument panel mounting the G4B compass master indicator, altimeter, airspeed indicator, DME, outside air temperature, ADF, and the air position indicator.  To his left were the ADF controller, IFF controller and of course the hatch jettison switch.  Not to forget the small window carefully positioned so that the view was minimal.  As well as the den in the back the nav also spent time in the nose where the bomb sight was positioned.  On the starboard wall were found a number of other panels that were the province of the nav, since the pilot could not reach them, including the 12/24 Way bombing selection and control panel and the electrical control panel for AC power.  The DC power controls were on yet another panel on the port side of the nav’s route from his navigating position to his bomb aiming position.  A long oxygen tube and intercom lead was provided for the nav when down the nose or moving around the aircraft.

 RAAF Museum archive.

So what was it like to operate?  Some suggest the Poms had the design already to build when someone reminded them they needed to fit crew stations.  It certainly gained none of the benefits of the science of ergonomics. The nav carried out many tasks that would be handled by the copilot in other aircraft.  He read the check list for the pilot as required before, after and in flight and calculated take off performance, carried the fuel plot and similar tasks to assist the pilot.

In Vietnam
RAAF Canberras between 1967 to 1971 flew missions throughout South Vietnam in support of the various ground forces opposing the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces.  Initially the aircraft was employed on ‘sky spot’ missions under radar control and primarily at night.  Bombs were dropped from 20,000 feet and the radar controller gave the pilot headings to fly to arrive at release point then counted down to release when the nav pressed the button to release the bombs.  The sky spot controllers thought highly of the Canberra due to the fine heading changes possible – they asked for a quarter of a degree at times -  and stability compared to the other aircraft such as F-100 or F-4 they worked with.

However, the night sky spot missions rarely achieved significant destruction of enemy equipment and the No 2 Squadron crews itched to switch to daylight bombing under the guidance of a forward air controller (FAC).  Approval was gained for trial missions and in view of the results achieved the 8th Air Force approved the adoption of this role for the Canberra.  Sky spot sorties were still flown, but the ratio was normally 1:7.

Early in the No 2 Sqn deployment to South Vietnam war reserve bombs, many dating from the 1940s, were dropped.  These were short in length and six could be carried in the bomb bay with one on each wing tip.  Once this stock of bombs was exhausted the Canberra dropped US M117 bombs weighing 750 pounds, but only four would fit in the bomb bay so the load became six 750 pounders.

In the briefing the crew was given a rendezvous point with a FAC.  In most case there was little more information imparted.  The aircraft was navigated to the rendezvous using point to point TACAN and flight progress was monitored by the US tactical radar distributed throughout the country.  Approaching the R/V the radar would advise a frequency to contact the FAC and the strike would progress.  On first contact the strike aircraft advised the FAC of details of ordnance on board and routine operational data.  The FAC would describe the target and his plan of attack.  Some FACS were well accustomed to working with Magpies and would give detailed instructions.  Others were less aware and lefty much to the Canberra crew.  The Canberra was well suited to destroying bunkers and fortifications that the VC built all over the country.

A replica Canberra nose in the Australian War Memorial. [J Kightly]

As the pilot made contact with the FAC the nav would move forward and begin preparing the bombing gear.  He would also note the FAC’s instruction on a plastic covered card using a grease pencil.  The FAC goes on: 
“This is David 31.  So today Magpie we have a fortified position on the banks of a canal.  See that patch of trees in a T shape off my nose?”
“Roger tally.”
“Well your target is to the north of that right along the banks of the canal.”
“OK got it.”
“I would like the six bombs in one stick with a spacing of 200 feet between bombs.”

The nav now does a calculation how long it would take to cover 200 feet.  300 knots is equivalent to 500 feet per second, so if he set 0.4 seconds as the interval he would get the spacing right.  That is set on the 12/24 Way panel.  The target is fortified, meaning bunkers, so we want to bombs to penetrate before exploding.  Since the nose fuse is instantaneous and the tail is delay he sets tail fusing on the control near the 12/24 Way.  Then he sets the bombs starting at 1 and finishing at 6.  The bomb panel is set so the nav can dive down the nose.

The pilot flies the aircraft to where the FAC is indicating and lines up the direction of the canal. 

“OK Magpie.  I want you to run from south to north and put the bombs right along the bank.  Let me know when you are ready and I will give you a smoke.”
“Roger”.  The pilot has descended to 3,000 feet and speed 300 knots.  He lines up to the target area.  The nav has the bomb sight on and unlocked with the cover clear.  He also turns the camera control to ready and gets his bomb release button from its stowage.  He has Green Satin (Doppler) indicators down the nose to give him the vital groundspeed and drift readings.  He also has a check list page that gives the bombing angle for 3,000 feet above ground at increments of groundspeed.  At this stage just set the angle for 320 knots and he will refine on the run.
“OK, David, we have the area and are running in.  Request a smoke.”
“OK the smoke is good.  I want the first bomb 30 metres short of the smoke right along the bank.”
“Roger David, we have the smoke, are we clear live?”
“Magpie you are clear live.”
Nav to pilot.  “OK I have the smoke.  Easy to see.”
Pilot to nav.  “I am on speed and height”.  Drift 2 port groundspeed 315 knots.  Sets drift on bomb sight and adjusts bombing angle.  The bomb doors come open. 
“Left left”.
The line on the sight swings onto the target. “Master safety on.”
“Right”.  Just a small correction.  “A tad left left … Steady, steady, steady - bombs gone.” 
They say the pilot could tell when the target was getting close by the tone in the nav’s voice.

RAAF Museum archive.

Bomb doors close.  The nav could then look straight down through the small window under the nose.  Six bombs falling cleanly.  Target and smoke coming up.  Bang!  First bomb hits followed by five more at intervals of 0.4 of a second as set.  Plenty of smoke and spray from the canal water.  The nav turns off the camera that began recording automatically at bomb release and locks the bomb sight down and swings the collimator glass cover over the reticle.

“Outstanding bombs Magpie.  Right on the money.  Standby and I will get your BDA.”  BDA is bomb damage assessment:   an immediate visual estimate by the FAC which might later be followed up by reports for ground troops if they go in soon after.  After a couple of minutes while the Canberra is climbing away from the target and the nav has moved back to set the 12/24 Way controls back to OFF and safe.  

“OK Magpie I have your BDA.”
“Go ahead”
“Coordinates 987 345.  100 over 50.  Five bunkers destroyed, four bunkers damaged, six military structure destroyed.”  The 100 over 50 means 100% of the bombs fell within the target area and 50% of the target was covered.  He couldn’t say 100% covered or he would not be allowed a second strike on that target.
“Copied thanks David.  Great to work with you.”
“Good work Magpie.  You have a nice day.  Call Macon now on 343 decimal 7.”

The nav would then go back to strap into his ejection seat for the return to base.  An uneventful  sortie.  The return was again under the watch of the tactical radars back to channel 75 at an altitude around 20,000 feet.  Most bases were known by their TACAN channel and the Canberras operated out of Phan Rang Channel 75.  After landing the normal routine of signing off the aircraft and writing up any systems that were not operating at 100% efficiency.  The No 2 Squadron ground crew did an exemplary job and the Canberras were always in top notch condition, but some small things would be reported to keep them that way.  After signing off the aircraft over to the Ops room to debrief the mission.  Primarily a matter of the hours flown, the BDA and anything unusual to report.  Later or the next day the nav would go over the photos of the bomb strike with the bombing leader to get an assessment of error.  2 Sqn had a proud record for accuracy and this checking of photographic evidence was one of the factors in maintaining the standard.

The wingtip bomb rack.  As seen on the Temora Aviation Museum Canberra.  [J Kightly]

Most days the same routine was followed.  Occasionally the routine was broken by a night mission, but crews flew five times a week on the average.

John Bushell

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mozzie Returns

First flight of de Havilland Mosquito KA114.
Ardmore, New Zealand, Thursday 27 September 2012.
Congratulations to all those who worked to put her there.

Back in the hangar, ready for the next stage.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Well worth the trip

 They now do make them like that anymore.

Very impressive.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Mighty Mars

Just a great shot of the remarkable Martin Mars.

[Credit: Dan Megna, via Coulson Flying Tankers, in my case via XPLANES]

The Messerschmitt that delayed an invasion

From this webpage, comes a fascinating little story of early W.W.II.

"It was just a matter of time until Nazi-Germany would attack more countries. Fall Gelb ("Case Yellow"), the highly secret plan to attack France across Belgian and Dutch territory, was about to become reality. Hitler decided that 17th of January 1940, after being delayed 4 times, would be D-day for the German army. However, on 10th of January, one week prior to D-day, something occurred that made history. Fall Gelb was postponed until the 10th of May 1940."

One of three known existing pictures of the crash of the Bf 108 Taifun D-NFAW on January 10th 1940. [Via:]

Read the rest here

Friday, July 27, 2012

New Zealand's First Mosquito

As is well known, Britain, Australia and Canada all built Mosquitoes in W.W.II.  With no flying examples currently, the rebuild of the Jerry Yagen example by Glyn Powell and Avspecs in New Zealand is much anticipated in the warbird world.

This magnificent film (by Bruce Salmon) illustrates, I suggest, what an amazing achievement that build is.

While this is an authentic restooration of an original Mosquito identity, I suggest it's not too much to see it as the first New Zealand built example.

Well done, the Kiwis.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Caution, Wet Paint

Much is written about colours, markings, schemes and stencils of aircraft through history, but there are very few photos of people actually creating the colours (or painting the aircraft).

WAAF with paint     1941.
WAAF with paint 1941

Here's one, thanks to a very interesting W.W.II British Commonwealth colour Flickr stream, well worth a further browse.  At a guess, it's a Short Sunderland getting some new paint.  Of course the picture raises more questions than it answers, as is often the case for posed press shots like this.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rare Fairchild boat

It's rare I come across a flying boat* I've never heard of before, being somewhat a fan of the species.  But scrolling through a Flickr account, I encountered this remarkable looker for, I think, the first time.  At a guess it may not have become famous due to being underpowered, or possibly having some unpleasant water characteristics - but I could be quite wrong!  Any Fairchild FB-3 fans out there?

Fairchild FB-3 NX7385

Fairchild's first flying boat (there doesn't seem to be an FB-1 or 2). Only one built, 1929. Four place all metal monoplane powered by one pusher Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp, then only producing 410hp. Wings and tail were fabric covered metal structures, hull was aluminum clad. Span 52', length 41 feet, top speed 130mph.

Credit to 'Batman 60' at his Flickr account here.  Check it out, lots of neat stuff. More on the FB-3 here, and links to more photos.

* Strictly speaking it's an amphibian.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

More Desert Kittyhawk data

Since my last post here on the topic, further images by Jakub Perka have been released (the full set are here) and two videos plus a later one.  It is now reported that it is near the Farafra Oasis in the Al-Wadi Al Jadid in Egypt.

The first video, above, the second and a third, going by subsequent damage, here.

There has been a great deal of speculation on the identity of the aircraft, which seems likely to have been narrowed down to one possible example, but I'll wait for official confirmation before agreeing with the summations offered so far.

There is a long thread on WIX here, which develops as further information comes into the public domain, and other threads on other forums as well, as well as a post on the Vintage Wings blog here.

There is an Australian connection, in that there is an Australian made 120 volt battery found at the site, above.  However that does not mean it was an Australian pilot or aircraft, just Australian equipment was fitted, as it was to many Commonwealth Desert Air Force machines.

Sadly, while it is clear that there is appropriate official interest, a certain amount of damage has been done to the wreck since discovery by people attempting to investigate it without the correct tools and there are some pieces visible in the first images that have disapeared in later ones.

I hope to report in due course that the aircraft has been recovered and will be properly conserved and put on display at an appropriate location.  But there's a long way to go and it is not out of the woods (or rather desert) yet.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

US Training Codes

It is always good to welcome another new resource.  John Voss has launched his website covering the known Flight Training Codes for USAAF units in the USA. (The website.)  There does not seem to have been any reliable documentation of what units bore which numbers, but John has undertaken the tedious task of trying to compile know and found information into one place.

Not as exciting as some other data, perhaps, but it will provide another jigsaw piece to track back what Grandfather did during the war, I'm sure.  Any thoughts, data and feedback to John.

[Website image - official USAAF Photo from W.T. Larkins collection]

le Strutteur

It is great to hear that the remarkable French Memorial Flight association have flown their rare Sopwith 1&1/2 Strutter.  It's a magnificent restoration (though nothing less is expected from these craftsmen) and bears what is one of the most eye-catching schemes from any era of aviation.

 Another neat thing is the Strutter is one of the first (probably the first) aircraft fitted with a dedicated 'airbrake' system.  A video (here) on the Flight's website shows (on the ground) how it worked.

Perhaps even more impressively, the test pilot appears to be wearing a beret.  Sometimes life exceeds art.

[Photos from the Memorial Flight's news blog here, reproduced with acknowledgement.  Details of the Flight here and the Strutter here.]

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Intriguing Posters

My contact in Portugal, Ricardo Reis, directed my attention to this excellent poster website, part of the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore.  A big thanks to Ricardo.

The website has an extensive selection of posters of all kinds from all over the world, including many familiar ones, and many other less well-known ones - very easy to lose yourself for hours looking through it!

Let us take just two examples - British posters for a foreign market.  First is an unusual British W.W.II poster to tell the Russian allies where some of their war materiel was coming from.  This is an approximate Hawker Hurricane.  The headline reads "From the British People" and it is by Reginald Mount, dated 1941. [Cat No. P0504]

The National Archives in the UK have an exhibition featuring Reginald Mount's work (here) which includes the artwork (without the text) for the above image here. [Cat No. INF 3/328]  The TNA notes read: 
 "This image was ‘No. 5' in a series of posters (the others included a tank, lorry and parcels), designed possibly for British factories, but more likely for export to the Soviet Union, as the finished design is accompanied by Russian text

In 1942 Lord Beaverbrook had returned with a collection of original Soviet posters, which were published, with English translations, in British factories and the British looked to provide posters in return. 

The hand represents the British merchant navy carrying war supplies to ‘Russia', in this instance a Hawker Hurricane. The Hawker Hurricane equipped numerous Soviet squadrons at a time when industrial production was dislocated by the German onslaught."
 Mount undertook a good deal of artwork for many years, including the poster for the great film The Ladykillers

- - - -

This second poster is even more unusual, and somewhat enigmatic.  It's printed in Britain ('Nott'm' - Nottingham in fact) and is clear enough in its aim, as the catalogue notes state it reads 'On to Japan!', written in Arabic.

It's a great graphic design, by an artist signing himself 'Sevek', and the aircraft, cleverly composed into an arrow with the engine's exhaust stubs acting as the barbs behind the spinner/point could also be a Hurricane, almost.  There are other versions with English text, such as here.  Sevek had been a pre-war student at the Art Academy of Vienna, he then worked with the Austrian branch of Metro Goldwin Meyer (MGM) and, as here, later, propaganda posters for the British.  [Source.]

Going beyond the obvious answers, who was this Arabic language version for, and why?  I wonder if it would have meant much in it's presumably middle-eastern audience? [1945 P0495]

We will be returning to this resource.  A search on 'Aircraft' or 'War' came up with a wonderful array of posters along those themes.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Found Kittyhawk

On this Polish forum* a set of photos were recently posted, apparently of a previously unknown Curtiss Kittyhawk Mk.Ia.

It was apparently found by the poster's friend who works in oil and gas exploration.  No date or location have been given, although the aircraft is certainly somewhere in North Africa.

There has been a great deal of speculation about the aircraft and images, including a fair amount of (reasonable) caution and some scepticism in case they are a hoax.

 However these two images are (in my opinion) certainly of the real thing.  Several people familiar with the P-40 family have not found anything that seems suspicious in them.

The close up images are definitely of a British Commonwealth Kittyhawk, and, crucially, not of a known survivor.  It will be interesting to see what happens next.  [UPDATE:  More info here.]

[*Images by Jakub Perka posted online by 'Awot', reproduced with acknowledgement.  Google translation here.]

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Warped Walrus

Just paying around with the stitch app on the iPhone. RAAF Museum Supermarine Walrus HD874.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Baffling Bombshell

It's not unusual to find a Hollywood star in a bizarre looking promotional still photograph. But sometimes there remains a question behind it. A while ago, I came across this image of Rita Hayworth, with another woman, embracing a very large bomb. What is particularly odd about it, beyond the oddness of the image itself, is that these bombs seem to be a set of Nazi era German bombs, in fact the main blast bombs of the period used by the Luftwaffe. There are some more conventional photos of most of these bombs linked here, confirming that the examples in the Hayworth still are the real size - presumably the real thing.

Yes, Max is that big, and we'll just go straight past all the obvious jokes. But why would Rita be set up to have her picture taken with these (is it as obvious as that she was a 'bombshell' of the time?). And who is the other woman? Another actress? There's no film of Rita's that seems to relate to the need to happily embrace large German bombs, so there's no obvious connection there.

And of particular interest - and the reason for the post - how or why would the image be with a set of German bombs, rather than the more obvious and likely American munitions? It could be that a set of clearly labelled German bombs were on show for another purpose, at a location such as Freeman Field where the great post-war display of Axis aircraft was put on. This enquiring mind would like to know - so over to you dear reader.

There is a 'PS'. Rita's likeness was allegedly attached to the Bikini Atoll atomic bomb, but that appears to be a myth, as explored here.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Whale Ride

Thanks to my good friend Phil Vabre, last Thursday, we went for a bimble from Kyneton airfield in his Cessna 175, familiarly known as 'the Whale'. It was a near flight to go over familiar ground from the air for only the second time. The photo above shows the approach to Kyneton on our return. It was neat to fly in such a relatively rare Cessna, still powered with the original engine configuration.

Thanks Phil!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hot Pup

At today's example of the RAAF Museum's thrice-weekly 'Interactives' I grabbed a couple of shots of the Museum's Sopwith Pup replica, and noticed a phenomenon I'd not observed before.

It was a warmish 33 degrees C, with very light winds (7kmh, according to the local weather station), and I think as a result of these conditions, the Pup became distorted in some odd details: close observation of the wheels in all of these photos and the fuselage roundels in the images above and below show that they're no longer the circles they are in reality, but look 'retouched'.

Strange! (I should add, for those that care about such things, that all three images are full frame and unretouched except for resizing and the copyright note. The lens was at 500mm.)

Nevertheless, it was a good day to see such are a rare machine in action, and the audience clearly enjoyed it.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Traveller returns

It's been a while, and it's been pretty intense with a number of visits to interesting aircraft collections and talking to many and varied people involved in the vintage aviation scene.

One particularly special moment was a long chat (thanks to Jonathan Pote) with Mac Bettjeman (left) on the Museum of Transport and Technology's Short Sunderland Mk.V (right). Mac flew as a 'Second Dickey' in 1944-5 in Sunderlands with 490 Squadron RAF off West Africa, a tough theatre of war, particularly for health risks, and he is now one of the MoTaT volunteers working on conserving the Sunderland before it goes inside in due course. That's the collection's Sandringham behind, a remarkable pair of Shorts in anyone's book. I was travelling with my New Zealand colleague Dave Homewood (centre!) around the aeronautic sites of the Auckland, New Zealand area, and we covered a lot of ground as well as a lot of rare aircraft.

But now I'm back at the desk. Let's see what gets put out from the gathering in.